- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If you have an extra $150,000 or so you don’t know what to do with, there’s a nifty new plasma-based television-and-speaker combo I’d like to have. E-mail me, and we can work out delivery. Just kidding.

But if I had a million dollars, as the song goes, I might well consider splurging on the BeoVision 4-103, a product, sort of, of Denmark’s Bang & Olufsen, the super-high-end hi-fi outfit. The firm showed off its newest, highest-end TV Thursday at the Aston-Martin automobile showroom in Tysons Corner. There was a velvet rope and a crowd to match.

The 103 in the name refers to a diagonal screen measure of 103 inches. (Imagine 8-foot-5-inch Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, billed as the world’s tallest man, on a diagonal for an idea of the screen’s size.)

The actual “raw” 103-inch plasma panel used in the BeoVision 4-103 is made by Matsushita Electric Industrial (MEI), parent company of Panasonic.

But, said David Zapfel, a Bang & Olufsen product manager, the firm only accepts the best plasma panels MEI produces, and then it brings them to Denmark for “finishing.” A special anti-glare coating is applied, and the panel is placed in a “very special frame.”

Unlike many “mechanized” televisions, the BeoVision 4-103 can drop down to about six inches off the ground, but it doesn’t do so by disappearing into a wooden box of some sort. Instead, the set rises and falls on a mounting stand, with a mechanism smart enough to know something may be wedged below the set and thus stop lowering until the obstruction is cleared.

Moreover, the mounting-stand system will tilt the screen 20 degrees to the right or left and up or down four degrees. That’s cool, but also useful if you want to watch Rachael Ray while whipping up your own 30-minute meal from the kitchen while the big, hulking television is in the living room.

For this amount of money, you’d expect the picture and sound to be, well, perfect, and perfection is just about where you are with this system. I’m still happy with my Sony LCD, at 1/150th the cost, but the BeoVision 4-103 is a vision. The picture is flawless, and the sound, thanks to a central speaker and four Bang & Olufsen speakers distributed around the showroom, is incredible. It’s as good as in any movie theater - and perhaps better than most because this would be in your home, after all.

Mr. Zapfel demonstrated a feature the BeoVision 4-103 has to keep that picture in top shape: After every 100 hours of viewing, a small camera pops out of the television frame and checks a test pattern of white images to adjust the color balance. The plasma screen, he said, is rated for 100,000 hours of television viewing.

Who would buy something like this? After the demonstration, 18-year-old Patrick Lewis of Alexandria indicated he might take a stab at the system, “depending on the deposit.” Mr. Lewis, who said he brokers items such as cars and Rolex watches to make money, said he is a big fan of Bang & Olufsen merchandise, although he admitted that the $150,000 price tag for the system gave him pause.

D.C.-based commercial real estate broker Ashleigh Simpson also said he is a fan of the firm’s products and thought the new device was interesting.

According to Henrik Holm Pederson, a Dane who is regional development manager for Bang & Olufsen, two longtime clients who attended the demonstration said they wanted to make a purchase. Given that there’s an approximately 12-week delivery time, those buyers will have to leave something rather creative under the Christmas tree as a hint of what’s to come.

Bang & Olufsen has showrooms in Tysons Corner, Bethesda and Logan Circle. If you get your system in time for the big game, I’ll bring the chips.

E-mail mkellner@ washingtontimes.com

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